My watch strap broke this summer, so I took it to the kiosk at the mall to get it replaced. After browsing through some unideal prospects, I placed it on the counter and requested a suitable substitute. The repairman, a 20-something baby-faced guy, took a look at the watch and scrunched his eyebrows. He disappeared behind the counter of his kiosk and reappeared with a black case full of all kinds of watch straps. Selecting a slim, black band that matched the dimensions of the watch, he remarked, “she should like this replacement strap well enough.”
That’s right – for the past decade, I’ve apparently been wearing a woman’s watch. I suppose that shows poor self-awareness.
I’m confident, though, that this myopia does not extend to my teaching. In addition to my self-assessment, I capture external perspectives by surveying my students annually using Google Docs.
Very well, giving student surveys is nothing new. During PD, my colleagues have distributed the paper forms that they give to their students. My dad, a veteran international teacher, gave surveys for over a decade, right up until he retired. I even did it my first year of teaching. But who wants to go through 120 paper surveys?
Google Docs make sorting through the data much easier. This year, I created a form in Google Docs and posted the link to my class Moodle pages. On the last class before exams, I took all of my kids to the lab and left them there for 15-20 minutes while they completed the survey (I left the room so that my presence wouldn’t influence their answers). The form dumped all of its data to a Google Docs spreadsheet. It also auto-generated helpful charts and graphs that broke down the data for me. I did do additional calculations – categorizing similar questions and tabulated their aggregate numbers, for example.
I reflected on this data (raw data) in several ways:
- By writing reflection on this blog
- By making handy infographics, which forced me to think about which figures were significant, worth presenting, and therefore worth informing my practice
- By reading through the free response comments and placing them in the context of the numbers; making a Wordle of frequently used words helped.
I’m not going to justify why it’s a good idea to reflect. Just take my word for it that it’s a good idea. But if you’re doing paper surveys right now, you need to switch to Google Docs right away. It makes collation and representation of data MUCH easier and clearer, so that you can focus on what matters most: analyzing the results and applying the lessons to your practice.
Is it ironic to reflect on a reflection? Is it a Sisyphean task? If you do student surveys, keep in mind to take them with a grain of salt – both the good and the bad. You should trust the surveys as much as you trust your students’ capacity to accurately measure their own growth and learning. It will work differently for different ages, cultures, and class dynamics.